Library: New policy paying off

FAIRMONT — Changes made at the Martin County Library have improved the reported behavior problems that patrons and employees were experiencing, according to a report submitted to the library board by facility director Jenny Trushenski.

According to county commissioner and library liaison Steve Flohrs, the number of people congregating in front of the library escalated, and people were spending all night there, sleeping on the benches.

“People are feeling intimidated to walk up there and drop off their books,” Flohrs said previously. “We’ve been told that things have been said to people that are trying to drop off their books so they feel intimidated, so that’s just where we’re coming from.”

The changes included turning off the Wi-Fi when the library is closed, placing additional lighting near the entrance, removing access to power outlets outside the building and removing the benches in front of the building.

“Those things have pretty much eradicated the behavior issues that we’ve had,” Trushenski said. “We’re still monitoring things, and I believe the crew that was here has moved to Citizens Park next to [Fairmont] City Hall and has been damaging things there. So they’ve just moved across the street.”

The removal of the benches and the former planter/platform cost $3,442, paid to Dean’s Construction of Fairmont. Trushenski said the cost will be split evenly by the county and city.

Trushenski noted that the library has received a lot of feedback on the changes over social media and in news articles. However, she said some of the feedback was not necessarily indicative of how actual people were responding.

“Some has been positive, some has been more negative,” she said. “I will say that [with] many of the Facebook comments, I started getting these automatically generated messages from fake profiles. Some of the comments were from people who are not local residents, or some of those fake profiles as well, and I did read most of the comments there.

“Most of the comments we received via phone or in person have been supportive of the changes. I’ve heard a lot of stories from people when I’m out in public, and we’re going to continue to monitor it.

“It’s been an interesting response, but there’s definitely people who were uncomfortable coming in the building and were thankful for us addressing those issues.”

In another safety-related issue, Trushenski said a recent active shooter training session presented by Fairmont police officers on Sept. 28 was helpful to library staff.

“It was good; it was very informative,” she said. “I think, just talking to the staff, everyone felt good that we had it. It just increased our awareness and answered a lot of questions for the staff on what to do in certain situations.”

Turning to another matter, Trushenski said a highly anticipated Planetarium library event had to be postponed because of technical problems.

“They had contacted me a couple of weeks before the Planetarium, and the computer part which really runs the whole program had to be sent back because of an issue with it,” she said. “They were supposed to get it back in time, but when it came back the computer was still not working.

“We had people talk to us about and had some interest on our Facebook page. I think we had a lot of people that were excited for it, but you don’t just want to go sit in a blank tent with nothing going on. A lot of teachers were excited and school kids was were where we were getting the most interest from.”

Trushenski is hopeful the event can be rescheduled.